When family and friends learn that I now work online full-time, they often ask me how to start a blog and make money online. After explaining the process of starting a blog a few dozen times, I thought it would be much easier to document a step-by-step guide.
1. Decide What To Blog About
Blogging will not bring you millions overnight. Like any other business, it requires time, patience, and commitment, so pick a topic or niche you are passionate and/or knowledgeable about. Trust me, your audience can tell when you love discussing the topic in your blog posts and that will build credibility and loyalty. Furthermore, a unique experience or perspective on a subject will help you stand out from other bloggers online, and encourage social media sharing from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. These mediums can provide exposure and drive huge amounts of traffic to your site.
2. Which Blogging Platform To Use
A majority of blogs on the internet are made using the free WordPress blogging platform. A blogging platform helps manage your content, images, and design. WordPress is absolutely amazing in terms of being simple, reliable, and flexible. It is so easy to use that nearly 100 million websites use WordPress and hosting companies like BlueHost offer “1-Click Blog Installation” features specifically for new bloggers who want to install WordPress. Without any HTML or technical knowledge, you can build your own blog and customize it with different free themes, layouts, plugins, and features.
On the other hand, you may want to learn how to start a blog for free using Blogger.com or Tumblr.com. If you intend on making any money blogging online, I can tell you that starting a free blog is the wrong decision. Let me explain why “free” is not actually free.
- You can’t have your own domain. This site, Yahoo.com, Google.com and CNN.com have their own domains. With a self-hosted blog, you can pick any available domain name you want and register it. However, if you choose to start a blog on Blogger.com or Tumblr.com, your website’s URL will look like YourSite.Blogger.com or YourSite.Tumblr.com. Imagine if you had to go to Yahoo.Blogger.com – what would you think? Credible or easy to remember? Would you share that “blog” with your family and friends?
- You don’t really own your blog. Because your blog is hosted on their site, you aren’t even the “owner” of it. Your blog can be removed or deleted without warning. If you decide to move to your own domain and hosting later, you won’t be able to take your traffic or readership with you, either.
- There is no flexibility. When you make a blog using a free blogging service, you are limited to their infrastructure, design, and layout. The themes these platforms offer are limited and boring, and you can’t install any 3rd-party plugins.
- You can’t make money, or at least not as much. Many people make money blogging, from $100 a month to $1,000,000 per month. Unfortunately for you, most of these free blogging sites won’t allow you to, and if they do, the platform will take a percentage of your earnings.
For all these reasons and more, I highly recommend you buy your own domain (i.e. MyBlog.com or MyBlog.org) and use a cheap hosting company.
Cost of Starting A Self-Hosted Blog On Your Own Domain
The biggest advantage of starting a blog or business online is that it’s incredibly cheap. Here are the costs you may incur hosting your own blog using WordPress’s free blog software.
- Domain: $10 per year
- Hosting: $4 – $7 per month, or about $50 per year with a one-year discount.
The best part is there is no commitment. If after a month or two, you decide blogging isn’t for you, you can cancel and get a refund. Many hosting companies even offer a 90-Day or Anytime Money Back Guarantee. You really have nothing to lose at this point. The tutorial below will walk you through how to create your blog.
3. Choose A Domain and Hosting
Hopefully you’ve decided to self-host a blog on your own domain. Now comes the fun part – picking your brand name and domain.
Picking A Domain
Selecting a domain can be a challenge for some bloggers because it needs to be brandable, meaningful, and easy to remember. If you are interested in blogging about healthy food and recipes, a domain like My-Favorite-Healthy-Food-Recipes.com or MyFavoriteFoodRecipes.com is not the way to go. Try a catchy, unique domain such as EatWell.com or HealthFanatic.com. Similarly, you can brand your domain after yourself by using your name.
Where To Buy A Domain and Hosting
It is usually best for you to buy a domain and hosting together, especially since the best hosting companies will give you the domain for free when you buy hosting, saving you both time and money. Although there are lots of registrars to buy domains from, it is always better to go with a reputable company.
In my years building blogs, I’ve realized that the best WordPress hosting company is BlueHost. BlueHost’s shared hosting plans include a free domain, automated backups, unlimited everything, 24/7 technical support via phone and chat, and an average up-time of 99.9% so you don’t have to deal with server crashes and network outages. BlueHost is also highly recommended for 1-click WordPress installs. Their extremely user-friendly control panel means you can start your blog in 5 minutes.
Overall, a reliable host offering a powerful server, fast connection, and unlimited bandwidth/disk space is critical to your future success making money online.
How To Set Up A Blog
A Step-By-Step Guide On Starting A Blog With BlueHost
So, “how do I start a blog?” First, you need to visit BlueHost and click on the “Get Started Now” button.
On the next page, in the “New Domain” box, choose your desired domain name. If the domain is available, you will move on to the next step of the registration process. Otherwise, you will need to choose another name. If you already own a domain name, input it in the “I Have A Domain Name” box to proceed.
Once you have a domain name, you will need to fill out your account information.
Afterwards, scroll down the page to select your web hosting and options. As a new blogger, we recommend picking the “12-Month” option since BlueHost offers a “Money-Back Guarantee” and you can cancel your hosting plan anytime you want. Your domain is free with BlueHost, a $10 savings.
Additionally, we recommend you uncheck the “SiteLock Domain Security” and “Site Backup Pro” options, but keep the “Domain Whois Privacy” to protect your blog’s ownership details (your name, mailing address, email, etc.) from being associated with your domain name and publicly shared.
Finally, you will need to input your billing and payment information. BlueHost is one of the best and most secure hosting companies, so you can feel safe inputting your credit card details. When the transaction completes, you will be routed to a page asking you to “Create Your Password”.
After successfully creating your password, log in to your new BlueHost account to install your WordPress blog. On the main page of your account, click on “cPanel” in the upper left corner.
Under Hosting > cPanel, you will see the screen below. Then click on the “WordPress” icon to begin setting up your blog.
On the pop-up screen, you’ll want to click on “Start” to start a brand new install of WordPress.
On this page, choose your domain from the list to install your WordPress blog on. Leave the second box empty.
The last step is to setup your basic WordPress login details. Click “Show Advanced Options” to type in your credentials such as the “Site Name” (which you can always change later), “Admin Username”, “Admin Password”, and an “Admin Email Address” (a personal email address you check regularly works best since updates and notifications will be sent here). Keep this username/password login information handy because you will need it to access the back-end of your fresh WP install.
Make sure “Automatically Create A New Database For This Installation” is checked. Lastly, press “Install Now” to start the WordPress installation.
After the installation is complete, visit your “Site URL” to check out the template WordPress theme and layout, which you will be able to edit and customize. To log in to the back-end, click on the “Login URL” and enter the username/password you created above. For convenience, bookmark “yourdomain.com/wp-login.php” or “yourdomain.com/wp-admin/” because that will be your login URL going forward.